Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said it well when he said of Virginia, “It’s a tough place to play. All you have to do is look at the history.” And history says that regardless of the records, the Yellow Jackets (4-3, 3-2 ACC) and Cavaliers (2-5, 0-3 ACC) are going to give each other a tough game.
The all-time series between these two ACC foes is tied, 17-17-1, with the two teams splitting the last six meetings. The Yellow Jackets have won three of the past four match-ups, including a 56-20 win at Bobby Dodd stadium last season. However, Tech has only one win in Charlottesville since 1992, that coming in the 2009 season.
But looking beyond the past numbers and records, this year’s game may actually look favorable towards the Yellow Jackets.
Unlike some of the past few weeks, the Jackets are actually playing into the weakness of an opponent rather than its strength. Virginia likes to run the ball, generally between the tackles and with an occasional read-option pitch. This goes right into the teeth of the Georgia Tech defense, who have been outstanding defending the run this season.
A key factor in getting the Virginia offense off the field is going to be 3rd down conversions, and there the Jackets hold a decided advantage. The Yellow Jackets only allow a 30% conversion rate on 3rd down (16th in the nation), while the Cavs only convert 36% of their 3rd downs (85th in the nation). If Ted Roof’s defense can keep those conversion rates even close to the same, they could end up blanking Virginia on the scoreboard just as they did Syracuse.
On the flip side, the Cavaliers are very strong in pass coverage, but haven’t been able to do much about stopping teams from running on them. If that doesn’t scream Georgia Tech victory, I don’t know what does.
The Virginia defensive line is susceptible to the type of cut blocks the Jackets employ. They are a bigger line and not quick to the gaps, so that will allow both Vad Lee and Justin Thomas ample time to make the needed reads. I’d look for another 450-plus yard rushing game from the Jackets, and not enough passes to have to put down your drink to count.
Virginia is winless in the ACC so far this season, so this will be the fifth time that a Yellow Jackets opponent is trying to win their first conference game of the year. Last week’s deflating loss to Duke has either broken this Cavaliers team, or gotten them riled up enough to put up a fight. Either way, the Yellow Jackets probably still come out on top of this one.
With a win this week, Georgia Tech would be 2-1 in ACC road games, meaning the Yellow Jackets would have a .500 or better mark on the ACC road during all six seasons under Paul Johnson. It would would also insure the Jackets of finishing .500 or better in ACC play for the 19th consecutive season.